Review: The Museum of Intangible Things

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin BFYR
Pub Date: April 10, 2014
Genre: YA 
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by author: The Probability of Miracles

 Picture Me Gone

   
Hannah and Zoe haven’t been given much in life, except each other, and they don’t have anything particularly wonderful waiting in their future. Unless you count enrolling at the local community college, which they don’t. The only worthwhile tie the girls have to the New Jersey town they grew is Zoe’s autistic brother, who relies on Zoe and Hannah to help him navigate the world and all the intangible things within it he struggles to understand. After climbing out of a dark depression, Zoe bounds into mania, declaring that Hannah might not have the best grip on the intangibles either. Hoping to recover the real Zoe in the midst of her cycles of depression and mania, Hannah agrees to ditch New Jersey and embark on a cross country road trip in search of those difficult to understand but absolutely essential intangibles: Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).
  
The Museum of Intangible Things is, at its core, a love story. Not the typical romantic love story (though there is one of those within its pages as well), but the story of the strong and enduring love between two girls who have always been and always will be there for one another. True best friends with a wild streak… Bonnie & Clyde Bonnie. Wendy Wunder gives readers an unforgettable story of two girls who take to the road and commit the occasional crime in an epic quest to ensure the others’ happiness.

Notable Quotes:

“I am a freshwater girl. I live on the lake, and in New Jersey, that’s rare. The girls on the other side of town have swimming pools, and the girls in the south have the seashore. Other girls are dry, breezy, salty, and bleached. I, on the other hand, am dark, grounded, heavy, and wet. Fed by springs, tangled in soft fernlike seaweed, I am closer to the earth. Saturated to the bone. I know it, and so do the freshwater boys, who prefer the taste of salt.”

“I come from a long line of downtrodden women who marry alcoholics. All the way back to my Lenni Lanape great-great-great-(lots of greats) grandmother, Scarlet Bird, a red-haired New Jersey Indian who married William Penn. I know this to be true because of the red highlights in my hair, and because, if you ever see the statue of William Penn in Philadelphia, the one that dictates the height of all the buildings in its perimeter, you will notice, if you look at him from behind, that he and I have the exact same rear end.”

 “My best friend Zoe has a perfect rear end and stick legs, and long, silky black hair. She is obviously not descended from William Penn. There are no dowdy pilgrims in her ancestry. Whereas I am grounded and mired in this place, she’s like milkweed fluff that will take off with the first strong breeze. Stronger than fluff, though. She’s like a bullet just waiting for someone to pull the trigger.”

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Review: Vitro

Title: Vitro
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin
Pub Date: January 14, 2014
Genre: YA
Rec. Age Level: 12+
More by author: Origin

 Picture Me Gone

   
The author of Origin, Jessica Khoury, takes readers to a new locale and a new scientific experiment with her sophomore novel, Vitro.

Sophie Crue has spent most of her life living with her father in the United States, seeing her mother only a handful of times and only during exotic vacations, but before her parents divorced, they lived on a remote island in the Pacific. Her mother remained on the island after Sophie and her father set off for the States, staying behind to devote her life to making huge, life changing scientific breakthroughs…. or so Sophie always believed. 

After receiving a cryptic message from her mother, Sophie returns to the island and teams up with her childhood friend Jim, the only pilot on the island who will brave flying her to the sinister Skin Island where her mother works. Sophie doesn’t believe in the mysterious fear and whispered stories that keep the islanders from venturing too near Skin Island, but she soon finds out that there’s more truth that dark experiments are being performed on the island and that her mother may be at the center of everything.

Tackling big issues, like nature versus nurture, the myriad of questions associated with creation and science, and the bond between parent and child, Vitro is sure to garner praise from readers looking for depth packaged within a fast-paced story and an exotic locale.

  
Notable Quotes (aka, And so it begins…):

“I can pay you, I swear. I know it exists! My mom’s worked there for years.” 

“You could and over the key to the national treasury, wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It’s not there, I’m telling you! I’m sorry, miss, but I can’t produce an island out of thin air.” 

She drew a deep breath to steady herself, feeling like a torn flag whipped and battered by a hurricane. “If you can’t help me, then who can? There must be someone local knows the surrounding area.”

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Review: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

Spooky twists and soaring prose make this foodie update on Hansel and Gretel an unforgettable must-read.

Lorelei is bowled over by Splendid Academy–Principal Trapp encourages the students to run in the hallways, the classrooms are stocked with candy dishes, and the cafeteria serves lavish meals featuring all Lorelei’s favorite foods. But the more time she spends at school, the more suspicious she becomes. Why are her classmates growing so chubby? And why do the teachers seem so sinister?

It’s up to Lorelei and her new friend Andrew to figure out what secret this supposedly splendid school is hiding. What they discover chills their bones–and might even pick them clean!

Mix one part magic, one part mystery, and just a dash of Grimm, and you’ve got the recipe for a cozy-creepy read that kids will gobble up like candy.

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Nikki Loftin’s The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is a deliciously creepy middle grade novel. Imparting lessons about friendship, eating well, and believing in yourself, Loftin’s debut is sure to find fans among young and old readers alike.

I especially enjoyed the bits of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy that were creepy and bore a strong resemblance to Roald Dahl’s novels. In fact, this novel feels very much like an updated version of Dahl’s novels The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Readers who like these types of novels will definitely enjoy Loftin’s style as well!

Lorelei is a wonderful main character; she’s caring, curious, and believes in herself. I was so happy to see her befriend Andrew, a boy who isn’t always so sure of himself. Not only did they make a great team, they provided a fantastic example of the benefits of looking beyond outside and initial appearances to the person within.

The novel is packed with magic and mystery, making it more fantastical than realistic, but it still leaves readers with an important message about eating well and being healthy. In the real world, there (probably) isn’t a witch who’s trying to fatten you up so you make a better meal, but they are still definite negative consequences to bad eating habits and lack of exercise and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is the perfect novel to start this discussion with young readers.

Razorbill, August 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781595145086, 304 pgs.

Review: Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe

Eve, a runaway, finds a new job at a coffee shop on the outskirts of Tuscon. When she’s approached by two wealthy teens who claim she bears an uncanny resemblance to their missing cousin Aurora, her life takes a turn for the dark and mysterious. Drawn into a scheme to win Aurora’s inheritance, Eve finds herself impersonating the girl, who disappeared three years ago on the night her best friend Elizabeth died. But when Liza’s ghost begins to haunt Eve, doing harm to the people close to her under the guise of “protecting” her, Eve finds herself in a nightmare maze of lies and deception that leads her to question even her own identity. She realizes her only chance is to uncover the truth about what happened the night Liza died, and to find Liza’s killer – before she’s next.

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Ghost Flower is yet another Michele Jaffe novel packed with secrets, lies, and drama. I’ve read most of Jaffe’s books, from various genres and subgenres, and I’m always impressed by her storytelling abilities, but it’s the thrillers, like Rosebush and Ghost Flower, that I find most impressive. 

Usually, I find mysteries all too predictable, but that’s never the case with Jaffe’s novels. Even if I think I’ve got the twist figured out, I’m never completely sure. And half the time I’m only partially correct and Jaffe has something else up her sleeve.

I appreciate the fact that the main focus of Ghost Flower is the mystery, not the romance  or any other less important plot lines. Those other aspects are there – and they’re very well done – but the story line doesn’t meander pointlessly. I can’t say I’ve read very many YA mysteries that keep focus as well as Jaffe’s novels.

Ghost Flower had an almost cinematic quality. I could easily see it being made into a film. In fact, since it’s a relatively quick read, I actually felt like I’d just spent the last few hours watching a movie. The characters were clearly formed in my head and I found myself rewinding and rewatching my mental images to search for clues as the mystery slowly unraveled.

Fans of psychological thrillers will quickly become fans of Ghost Flower, but I urge everyone with a few extra hours to pick up one of Jaffe’s novels. 

Razorbill, April 2012, Paperback, ISBN: 9781595143969, 358 pages.

Review: Rosebush by Michele Jaffe

Instead of celebrating Memorial Day weekend on the Jersey Shore, Jane is in the hospital surrounded by teddy bears, trying to piece together what happened last night. One minute she was at a party, wearing fairy wings and cuddling with her boyfriend. The next, she was lying near-dead in a rosebush after a hit-and-run. Everyone believes it was an accident, despite the phone threats Jane swears were real. But the truth is a thorny thing. As Jane’s boyfriend, friends, and admirers come to visit, more memories surface-not just from the party, but from deeper in her past . . . including the night her best friend Bonnie died.  

With nearly everyone in her life a suspect now, Jane must unravel the mystery before her killer attacks again. Along the way, she’s forced to examine the consequences of her life choices in this compulsively readable thriller.

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I should probably start off by saying that I am a huge Michele Jaffe fan. Huge. I started reading her books back in freshman year of high school… and I didn’t start with the YA titles. Instead, I was addicted to her Arboretti Family novels, which are adult historical mysteries set in Europe with plenty of romance and steamy encounters. 

After I devoured those, I read Bad Kitty, one of her YA novels. I didn’t know if I’d like it since it is nothing like her adult titles, but I loved it! The main character, Jasmine, is wonderful and hilarious and I’m not sure if anyone could manage to not laugh aloud while reading Bad Kitty and its sequel, Kitty Kitty. These books don’t get the attention they deserve!

Then Rosebush came along. Again, the description made it sound like a complete departure from what I was familiar with from Jaffe. At this point, Jaffe had proved that she’s a very versatile writer and I’d missed her characters, so I had no choice but to give this newest offering a try.

Rosebush reminds me of an edgier, more succinct version of Pretty Little Liars. Admittedly, I’ve never read these novels, but I have watched some of the television show, so this comparison is based entirely on my knowledge and opinion of the CW show rather than the novels. I felt like Rosebush brings the same rush, panic, and mystery as PLL in a much smaller package, which packed an impressive punch. I felt so much emotion in such a short span of time that I was left breathless.

Having read Jaffe’s adult novels, I knew she was fully capable of writing a good mystery/thriller, but it was interesting to see it done in a YA contemporary setting rather than historic London. I truly had no idea who had tried to kill Jane. One minute I felt sure it had to be one particularly guilty looking individual, then I be totally unsure by the next chapter. I really couldn’t put Rosebush down until I determined which character ran Jane down or Jaffe revealed the culprit! 

Rosebush was full of twists and turns that kept me muddling through the details of Jane’s accident right along with her. Jaffe has delivered another compelling read, ensuring I’ll be reading her next book… no matter what genre is!

Razorbill, December 2010, Paperback, ISBN: 9781595143532, 326 pages.

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This weekend I was able to attend the RT Booklovers Convention and I finally was able to meet Michele Jaffe in person! It was the end of the day and I was tired and a hot mess, but still SO EXCITED to meet an author that I’ve been reading for years! She’s completely fabulous and I’m extremely jealous of her hair. In the photo below we’re trying out a pose recommended by one of Michele’s friend that is supposed to make us look amazing in photographs…  Did it work? 😉


Michele’s new book, Ghost Flower released this week and I must get my hands on a copy!

  

Win a copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis!


I loved ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and I want to pass the awesome on to a lucky winner at The Hiding Spot!

Please be sure that you read through the information and rules below.

Prize:
(1) arc of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

How to Enter:
You MUST fill out this FORM. If you neglect to fill out the form, you will not be entered to win.

Extra Entries:

Not required. Extra entries are detailed on the entry form as well.
+2 Comment on my review of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.
+1 Tweet this contest. (Leave a link.)

Extra entries will not be awarded for following The Hiding Spot, but it’s always appreciated!


Details:
Contest will close March 1st, 2011. Open to the US & Canada only!


Good luck!

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis



Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Publisher: Razorbill
Pub. Date: 1.11.2011
Genre: Sci-Fi YA
Keywords: Spaceship, Murder, Mystery, Drama, Space Odyssey
Description (from Goodreads):
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Beth Revis had me totally and completely transfixed by her debut, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. I’ve always had a soft spot for science fiction, and YA is sorely lacking in this department, so, understandably, I was pumped when I first heard about this novel… Still, nothing could’ve prepared me for just how epic it was going to be!

I feel the need to mention that this is one of those hyped novels that actually lives up to the hype. This was so, so rewarding for me. There’s nothing worse than looking forward to and daydreaming about a book, then finally having it in your hands and realizing that it isn’t at all what you thought it was going to be. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE ended up being all I expected and more. 

This debut is a bit of everything, without being overwhelming. Fans of romance, mystery, dystopia, and sci-fi will all find familiar elements within ACROSS THE UNIVERSE’s pages. That said, these elements are all seamlessly interwoven, so if you’re usually not a fan of sci-fi or romance or whichever genre, you’ll still enjoy this book. 

As the story unfolded and history and secrets were revealed, I found myself entranced by life upon the Godspeed. The population upon the ship live such caricatures of real life and they’re totally unaware… it’s actually quite disturbing in a can’t-look-away-because-it’s-so-sad-and-horrible-and-what’s-going-to-happen-next? kind of way.

I really liked that there’s a map of the spaceship included on the book’s first pages. I didn’t try to figure out what everything was when I first started reading, but, as the story progressed, it was helpful to be able to flip to diagram and keep track of where things were the action was happening on the ship. 

I’ll definitely be reading Revis’ next installment! She dishes out the perfect mix of drama, romance, mystery, and creepy science to keep my eyes glued to the page. And, semi-secretly, I’m hoping that ACROSS THE UNIVERSE starts a sci-fi YA trend… I’d definitely be a supporter!

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For a chance to win my arc, go here.

Review copy provided by publisher.